Driving RideTech’s 1969 Autocross Mustang at Goodguys Del Mar

Check out my review of the RideTech 1969 Mustang!

When Ford released the 1969 Mustang, the car had been significantly updated, but remained all-classic Mustang with a rather more aggressive look. Other than the 108-inch wheelbase, every measurement grew, making the Pony longer, wider, lower and more streamlined than before.  However, all of these changes came with a cost and that was weight. Today, using the 1969 model as the base for a project brings with it the challenge of dealing with the car’s inherent bulk.

When that project is also performance-driven, it’s going to take some serious massaging throughout the car, including a lot of attention to the suspension. Face it, there aren’t enough leaf springs in the world to keep that puppy from getting tail happy once the power gets serious. Some of those options come from RideTech Air Ride Technologies, in the form of front and rear suspension components, or complete kits to get your Pony under control.

Now, you may not feel totally comfortable with an air bag suspension and in all probability that’s because of stories you’ve heard before about these being used on luxury cars in the 1990s and the reliability issues that plagued them. Well, this isn’t your father’s air suspension anymore. Of course, the proof is in the driving, so the folks at RideTech allowed writers to drive the Mustang in the Goodguys 2011 Editors Challenge, held at the Del Mar Goodguys event.

There aren't enough leaf springs in the world to handle what this Ridetech air suspension will when the power comes on.

A Profile on RideTech’s 1969 Mustang

Now, when you let 16 magazine and web site Editors loose with a car of yours, it better be a sturdy one. The 1969 Mustang fastback that RideTech has put together features their own suspension products, of course, and that includes an Airbar triangulated 4-link rear suspension with Shockwave air springs to replace the farm cart hardware.

The front end has been worked over with double adjustable ShockWave springs and TCP tubular control arms, as well as their power rack and pinion steering gear. Of course, the RidePro e2 air compressor system is there, tucked away in the trunk. In the same area, you’ll also find a 22-gallon FuelSafe fuel cell.

A Musclebar front swaybar, along with Wilwood’s 6-piston brake calipers on 14-inch front rotors and 4-piston clampers for the 12-inch disks out back, help to keep the wheels on the pavement. Those wheels, by the way, are 18 x 9-inch billet Magnum 500 rims, shod with BF Goodrich G Force T/A rubber. Now, that’s a classic look backed up with modern capability.

Lift the hood on this Pony and you’ll find a 460 cui Bill Mitchell V8 that pumps out 630 hp at 6000 rpm. Fed by a Big Stuff 3 sequential electronic fuel injection and MSD ignition controller, this engine pulls like a freight train but delivers the response you need when the back end needs to slide out a bit more. As long as the driver keeps his or her cool, this car will as well, thanks to an FCO aluminum double pass radiator, Meziere remote coolant pump, Jones 8mm belt drive and a C-Line 8 quart road race oil pan with 3 quart Accusump reservoir.

Having all that power on tap is great, but since you need to get it to the pavement, there’s a lot of help in place starting from the Rankin NASCAR 4-speed with magnesium case, set up with a Tilton magnesium bell housing and a 7.5-inch carbon fiber triple disc clutch. A carbon fiber driveshaft hooked into a DTS rear end with Strange aluminum center section and 31 spline axles complete the job. Light weight and low inertia are key to the driveline response, so when you need power to the road, you get it immediately.

Rounding out this Mustang is the appropriate furniture in the office space and that includes a pair of Sparco composite seats, a Racepak digital dash board to deliver the 411 and a custom chrome-moly steel roll cage to keep you safe. With all that equipment at your fingers, this is one serious ride.

Driving the Mustang at the 2011 Goodguy’s Del Mar Editor’s Challenge

I have been out of the loop a bit when it comes to competitive driving.  In the early to mid 2000s, I would drive in just about any event I could attend, and took a few trophies home along the way.  But that was seven years ago and Del Mar would be my second autocross event I have attended since 2004.  Also, most of the cars I have driven in the past have been late model vehicles with predictable horsepower, power-assist brakes, and the normal amenities found in modern era vehicles.  At the Editor’s Challenge, I would have none of these – my first foray into driving a classic muscle car around the autocross course.

I sat behind for 10-15 runs to see how other people were driving these cars.  One driving characteristic I kept seeing was that 90% of the people that drove the RideTech Mustang were stalling it. I wanted the Mustang to be my first car to drive for the day (with the other cars being Detroit Speed’s second gen Camaro and Hotchkis’ Road Runner) so I made my way into the driver’s seat, well aware of the 7.5-inch carbon fiber clutch was going to have to tackle.  Wow the throw on the clutch was short!

I managed to make it up to the grid where owner Bret Voelkel says, “Rev it up to about 4000RPM and slip it out fast.”  I was playing with fire here; I was either going to stall it or roast the tires.  I didn’t give it enough RPM and slipped the clutch too fast, which caused the Mustang to buck like a bronco.  I quickly composed myself, pushed the clutch in, revved it up and dumped it again.  I was going to be at a 1-2 second disadvantage off the start due to my bad launch.

The rest of the lap was an absolute blast.  The course is slow and the tall-geared 4-speed was left in first for the entire run, helping to slow down the Mustang while off the throttle.  Torque delivery to the rear tires is lightning fast, thanks to the super light drivetrain assembly.  The Mustang would go exactly where you pointed it and if you began to under steer the slightest bit in a corner, pushing the loud pedal down the smallest amount would fix the problem.  I wish I could have had another go-ahead in the Mustang as my launch definitely cost me 5th place, and even possibly 4th.

Overall, I am happy with how I finished. I didn’t push any of the vehicles to the limits as I didn’t want to wreck anyone’s $75k+ car.  Additionally, the majority (if not all) of the people that beat me that weekend had much more recent autocross experience than I did, and many were even testing earlier in the day.  I hope to hit the track more often this year and hope to be back next year with a possible podium spot!

My Lap Times:

RideTech Mustang – 37.052
Detroit Speed 1970 Camaro – 34.440 (Plus one cone for a one second penalty)
Hotchkis Road Runner – 35.527
Average Time: 36.007

1. Mary Pozzi – Camaro Performers Magazine – 34.205
2. Jeff Smith – Car Craft Magazine – 34.245
3. Nick Licata – Camaro Performers Magazine – 34.445
4. Chad Reynolds – BangShift.com – 35.257
5. Wes Drelleshak – Classic Trucks Magazine – 35.728
6. Mark Gearhart – StangTV.com – 36.007
7. Sean Haggai – Chevy High Performance Magazine – 36.139
8. Johnny Hunkins – Popular Hot Rodding Magazine – 36. 614
9. Doug Glad – Car Craft Magazine – 36.844
10. Kirk Jones – Goodguys Gazzette – 36.852
11. Steven Rupp – Camaro Performers Magazine – 37.238
12. Rob McGaffin – Popular Hot Rodding Magazine – 37.915
13. Kevin Shaw – Street Legal TV.com – 40.298
14. Paul Heizenga – LSX Tv.com – 41.434
15 Courtney Hallowell – Drive Magazine – 41.711
16. Travis Noack – Muscle Car Magazine – 47.401
*powerTV crew in bold

Our Complete Editor’s Challenge Overview:

About the author

Mark Gearhart

In 1995 Mark started photographing drag races at his once local track, Bradenton Motorsports Park. He became hooked and shot virtually every series at the track until 2007 until he moved to California and began working as a writer for Power Automedia. He was the founding editor for its first online magazines, and transitioned into the role of editorial director role in 2014. Retiring from the company in 2016, Mark continues to expand his career as a car builder, automotive enthusiast, and freelance journalist to provide featured content and technical expertise.
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